New to Rock Gardening Need Help

amaranthena(6b)April 12, 2006

Hi, I've recently purchased a home and the front yard has this tree stump that the previous owners tried to hide with river rocks and slate.

I was considering planting daylilies where the river rock is and in the center place a shallow terra cotta dish with various hardy succulents, and perhaps fill the gaps all around the slate with more hardy succulents and alpines or whatever else would work.

Would appreciate if anyone can suggest type of soil mix I would need to fill within the slate and the dish and perhaps some suggestions on hardy plants. BTW, the little Japanese maple is probably dead and may have to remove it. Thank you!

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Is there a hurry in creating the image you may want?
I would rule out the daylilies in favor of other plants.
Are you interested in creating a scene or just a spot of
low maintenance flowers?

I will go on the basis that this is my place and what would I do with it.
1. first off is see some rocks near the front door that is
not that far away from the roughly 15' foot circle of
rocks and slabs.
2. Is there a porch (for sitting?). how are the windows placed. How often will you be looking at this. are all the neighbors yards just grass with no texture to them?
3. I need to know how the sun rises and falls in regards to
this spot. From the lay of the shadow I would say that the
spot is in the northeast section of the yard??
4. I would need to know the quality of the underlying soil.
the stump appears large. with old large trees the soil may
have been compacted and maybe the maple failed because of poor soil quality??? if so need to figure out how to overcome this without a major rework.

In general I would attempt to tie the rocky area by the
walk way to the central core of rocks.
Maybe add water, even flowing water as an element in the design.
I would have to rent a cement mixer and buy some of the
gravel that is often used in cement-it is granitic and
some acid plant mix and mix it all up in the mixer and then cover the entire core of rocks, stump and slabs so that the rock and slabs appear to be buried into this.
To get away from it looking like a pile of debris on the lawn I would lose the lawn between the core and the walkway and tie in the landscaping of the core to that area such as having low shrubs that are planted in the lawn area from the gate to midway towards the house and then over to and into the core.
Water or no water. Like birds? Birds need water but they also need cover that is near the water. Besides the low shrubs that would penetrate into the core you may want to
add somewhat taller shrubs east and southeast of the core
or maybe a low growing tree and a couple of shrubs.

these are only ideas that come to my mind. I would check the
net on examples of gardens that have rocks and water elements. look under landscaping with water and rocks.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 3:22PM
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Hi Terrestrial Man,

Thanks so much for all the thought you put into this. Your questions give me a lot to think about but I'll tell you what I would like and what the situation is. Here's another photo of the front from another angle.

As you can see the area under the windows is bare. Only an evergreen shrub survived. The previous owner had a topiary which also died on him.

There is a sitting porch that we tend to use when the weather warms up. Our neighbors are also new to the area so they have just started with their landscaping so for now no one has any texture to their yards, just a bunch of oak trees.

You're right about the direction of the sunrise, it is a northeastern location, so good morning sun with afternoon shade.

As far as landscaping goes I'm the only one in my family with any gardening interest and my budget is limited for the moment so a water feature is not in the plans unless it's a birdbath. I'd like to focus the spending on plants and trees.

I would like a combination of evergreens with small flowering trees. Don't want any tree that would grow too tall because that would block the waterview I now have from the top floor. I love dwarf pines, succulents, yuccas, small magnolias, today I saw a weeping cherry at the farmers market that was stunning. I also like hardy succulents.

The house is near water so I would like to have some type of "rocky coastal" look. Having said that I also love the Japanese garden look. The daylily suggestion was a quick fix for the moment. I already have the sprouting bulbs so I figured I'd use them and they're easy enough to move to a different location.

I travel a lot so there are stretches of time where the garden won't be tended to so I would have to consider drought tolerant plants. All these variables are a lot to consider and I'm a bit overwhelmed by it all. I'm not in a hurry to get a finished look all at once. This will be a longterm project. Just a little bit each year.

One more thing, I'm not too fond of garden lawns. The less the merrier in my opinion.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 4:34PM
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Greetings amaranthena,
Only got a few moments before getting back to work
It will take me a while to really make any additional
comments but will get back to you
just a few hurried thoughts
1. plan the layout as though you had the money to do
what you want. this will provide a basis for planting
and arranging landscape that will be easier to deal with when the time comes that you can do so.
2. use water in a passive way-bird baths are ok but too
overused. try a small rivulet where water can congregate into little pools that flow downward from other little pools
step pools of sorts
3. even with your absence the landscaping can be attended to by automatic watering systems so you wish to allow for
such by laying out inground pipe that would end where your
control system would sit even though you may not have a
control system in your budget.
4. budget-no hurry great work the plan and save the bucks a step at a time
The objective is as care-free as possible including weeding or just cleaning up plant debris and probably slow growers!
Must rush more when I have time.

hope others have the ideas!!!!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 8:22PM
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Hello amaranthena,
Here is some general ideas as per your inclinations.
1. I would plant the day lilies on the street side of the
fencing and have some planted in the triangular area on
the inside of the fence at the corner with the driveway.
2. I would use a low growing juniper planted just to the houseside of this triangle of daylilies
3. I would have a couple of the same juniper across the walkway in an arch towards the pile
4. On the opposite side of the pile a low growing Magnolia species.

That is a far I have gotten to this moment.

One thing. I cannot recommend any succulents. Most succulents that can handle your weather are small plants.
I think that what you may prefer are several large plants placed in a pleasing manner. I am trying to see how I can work a serendipitious spot in but the above is basically the foundation plants.
Also I cannot recommend trying to tie in with a coastal type setting as the lay of your house and the fencing and the presence of tall oaks tend to say english cottage garden to me. but with the use of junipers you can approach a quasi-appearance of what may occur along an new england type of coast line ????
I will be back! (No I do not have a polychromatic metallic alloy for a skeleton!!!!!)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2006 at 2:06PM
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Hi terrestrial man,

Once again I thank you for all the thought you've put into this. I like the idea of planting the daylilies right outside of the fence. I also wanted to include some low growing evergreens so that there's some winter interest besides just the daylilies on the outer area of the fence.

I'm not quite sure what you're referring to when you say "triangle" so just to clarify I color coded the front yard.

Once I orient myself to your directions I can simulate your plan and get a virtual image of what the yard may look once it's completed. The New England coastal/ English cottage style sounds very interesting. I'm so new to all this and learning every day. You've elevated my plans to a whole new level.

Before I started posting on this forum I had ordered a Rose of Sharon tree from Cottage Farms. It's the Freedom one which will have pinkish/red flowers and should grow between 8' to 10' tall with a 5' to 6' spread. Any room for this little guy in the front yard?

What, no polychromatic metallic alloy skeleton?! Now I'm totally confused! What else can it possibly be?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 9:18PM
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Greetings amaranthena,
Sorry not to get back to you sooner but I've been pretty tied
up and this kind of project takes real thought and alot of browsing for what would be the ideal plants. I have done
some looking at some very overpriced plants at a New Jersey
nursery/landscape business and I do hope that is not the norm for your area!

The triangle area is in the 10 to 11 area say to the fence
post there in the middle. The junipers would flow (think like an arching brush stroke from just behind the daylilies
in the triangle then to the edge of the core 3 and wrapping
around towards the opposite fence where it runs into a
species magnolia (which would have to be shaped to fit)
which could be planted just towards the fence side of the dead tree.

I have thought of something called New Jersey Tea which i believe is a ceanothus plant but I have not had time to check it out. But this is a low grower-imagine plants hanging over the rocks on a Maine coast! I would use these or something yet to be discovered between the junipers and the fence from point 1 to point 2.

Rose of sharon is a great plant. I had a single flowered one at my moms. It is a very versatile plant and you could either use it as an accent in which case I would suggest the point 5 site or buy several others and plant them as a hedge say on the outside of the fence from point 2 towards the house. They would require pruning but hold their shape well and should be quite a show!

I think that is all I can do at the moment. I may not be able to get back until next week as I have lots of work to do. By the way my reference was in regards to the Arnold Schwarkenegger (don't ask me how to spell this one and he is my governor!!) quote: "I'll be back" in the first Terminator movie!!!


    Bookmark   April 19, 2006 at 11:57PM
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It is a YES vote on New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus.
I think it would be a very excellent ground cover between the fence and the junipers in the area from 1 to 2.

Now I need to draw this out and maybe see about a bit of water here and/or there!

I will need to know more about area 7.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2006 at 4:37AM
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Hi Terrestrial Man,

Your ideas and plant suggestions are so exciting, which in turn has me all excited about the Maine coastal/cottage look. I looked up the New Jersey Tea and it seems like a great little plant with a wonderful history.

I haven't had a chance to visit any of the local nurseries, I got most of my plants this season through mail order. One of my neighbors is familiar with the reasonably priced nurseries and we'll be checking them out one of these weekends.

Here's a photo of area 7. There is a washing machine vent between the bush and the gate. If I plant anything there it'll have to be able to tolerate the steam outlet.

A friend of mine has offered me more Rose of Sharons that are growing abundantly in her land. I'm also teaching myself how to propagate woody plants. Now I'm wondering, is this a passion or an obsession? Will I have to join Gardener's Anonymous?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 11:23AM
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I think it's too late for Gardener's Anonymous!

But never too late for a gardening club!!

You mean a dryer's vent right? Very interesting!
Warm humid air! Maybe there is a spot for a succulent yet!
Will get back to you.

On the ceanothus-I think it would look great filling in the area to the fence from the junipers! I can almost see it!


    Bookmark   April 25, 2006 at 1:24PM
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Oops! I forgot to ask just what are the dimension of the area 7. And what is that plant up against the garage/house there?
Also I recommend losing those little lights. There is better and more attractive lighting that will complement your landscape and home.

Also I think that adding a couple of the ceanothus to the area 9 just house side of the juniper and running to the walkway would look good and help bind both sides of the yard together.

Also I would like to recommend digging out all the lawn from the gate area 9 to the walkway to the house/garage
with removal of the shrub (save it if you can) and the ring of stones. Dig down some 3 inches. Pour in a layer of gravel such as is used for cement-can be bought in bags at Home Depot or probably a comparable store in your area. Then cover with sand but not enough to obscure the top of the gravel. Then using the larger flat stones from the ring around 3 arrange them in the entire area using smaller ones to fill in gaps. Leave about square foot area below the dryer vent open for a plant. NOTE: this is all rudimentary at the moment as what I need to see is an image of the
area 7 face on (photograph from area 9) Also I need your feelings on this area: do you access the garage through that gate? How often is it traveled?

That is all I can add at this moment! If you have any ideas please do share!


    Bookmark   April 26, 2006 at 1:12AM
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Hi Terrestrial Man,

Sorry I took so long to respond. Unfortunately there's been a break in the pipes underground going out the front of the house and now the plumbers need to excavate. There goes my whole budget for this year and a lot more. I feel like screaming! Oh well, I guess these things happen.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2006 at 7:30PM
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Sorry about your broken pipes and budget woes.

My first thought when I heard "tree stump" was to recommend getting a stump grinder in there and grind down the stump to below soil level. As an extra benefit, the wood grindings will give you excellent mulch.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2006 at 10:07PM
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alinehuey(z5 PA)

I have already had good luck using an electric chainsaw to bowl out a fresh hardwood stump and planted petunias in it this summer. I had fun doing it and it only took a couple hours. I have an older stump that I put some compost into a hollowed part and planted portulacas.
Watch out for Rose of Sharon as some can come up everywhere from seed. I have one that doesn't that is a beautiful double pink.
Aline Huey

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 7:26AM
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